comScore Coping Through Netflix's Squid Game With Squid Game Memes
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I Discovered Netflix’s Squid Game Through Memes Created to Cope With How Emotionally Devastating Squid Game Is

Memes make the pain go away.

 

The doll in Squid Game

Every now and then a series comes along that feels like the entire Internet is watching it at the same time. Such is the case with Squid Game, a Korean thriller that premiered on Netflix on September 17th. According to NBC News, the hashtag for the series has been viewed 22.8 billion times on TikTok and is well on the way to becoming Netflix’s biggest non-English language show in the world.

What’s interesting to me is that it feels like everyone just started watching it a couple of days ago, so much so that I thought it had premiered this last Friday, October 1st. I don’t remember seeing much advertisement for it beforehand, but something about this weekend had it all over my Twitter feed.

Squid Game focuses on a group of people (456 to be exact) who have accumulated way too much debt. Our main focal point, Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae) is dealing with the kind of debt collectors who have him sign contracts via fingerprints with his own blood. At the same time, you kinda… don’t feel bad for him, at first? Because he steals money from his mama instead of appreciating the money she gives him, but he… means well? He’s trying to do right by his daughter, he just goes about it in a “gambling at the race tracks” kinda way.

He comes across a man who’d like to play a game, which spirals into him receiving a card and a promise of being able to make more money in a scenario that’s way too good to be true. Desperate, Gi-hun agrees, and thus begins the Squid Game, where everyone has their own reasons for wanting to become “the rich” that we keep trying to eat. All they have to do is play some Red Light Green Light and other childhood favorites.

Oh.

And um.

They die if they lose the game.

Like.

Horrifically.

While there was plenty of discussion about the series itself online, what I ended up seeing the most is memes that focused on how people would act if they had to participate in the game, how certain characters reacted to finding out that all their childhood games had received a murderous makeover, people photoshopping their faves into the game, and something about a giant robot doll?

You might think that the memes don’t fit the gravity of the series, especially since the trailer looks like this:

However, after watching approximately ONE episode I realized the purpose the memes served.

They were being created as a way to cope with how effed up Squid Game is.

It’s not like this is the first Battle Royale/Hunger Games/survive some psychologically scarring situations in order to win a prize thing that’s been on the air, but something about Squid Game really sticks with you. The setting is deceptively cute with the pastel stairs leading toward the games. The characters walk the line between “sympathetic” and “I hope you die playing Tug of War” with relatable motivations that make you question your own morals. And even if you know you should NOT get attached to ANYONE in a story like this, you get attached, which inevitably means you’re gonna get hurt in the end.

So the memes and fan recreations are a way to deal with what everyone just watched.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen everyone collectively take straight-up nightmare fuel and make it into a meme. Attack on Titan had an entire time period where folks were making the terrifying titans into “I’m late for school and running with toast in my mouth, tee hee” memes, and my first introduction to Five Nights at Freddy’s was Tumblr turning that gif of Foxy running down the hallway into everything BUT the jumpscare that it was.

via GIPHY

The sillier the memes, the more messed up the series is, and Squid Game will definitely make you wonder why its creator (Hwang Dong-hyuk) wants to stress you out so damn much.

Phew, thank goodness for the memes.

(Image: Hwang Dong-hyuk/Netflix)

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Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)